On Thursday, a top executive at AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) was grilled about past emails which criticized content providers who were selling programming to online vendors after the government contested AT&T Inc to take over Time Warner Inc (NYSE: TWX).
The antitrust suit, which is currently in its third week, seeks to stop the proposed purchase of Time Warner at a cost of $85.4-billion. The suit, the US Department of Justice is seeking to prove to the federal judge that after the acquisition, AT&T will start withholding Warner Bros, TBS, CNN, HBO, plus other programming offered by HBO, from online competitors.
According to the Department of Justice, such a move will be accomplished in partnership with Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA), which will switch off its own NBCUniversal content in a move to scuttle efforts by Sling TV plus other online competitors to attract traditional pay-TV customers.
AT&T Entertainment Group chief content officer Daniel York testified about emails which he sent while at the company and when he served as an executive at DirecTV. DirecTV was acquired by AT&T in 2015.
In one of the emails sent in 2015 to DirecTV chief executive York said “content providers generally are shortsighted whores” to anyone who is willing to write them a check for their programming. The email was sent in response to deals which content provides signed with Sling TV, which is owned by Dish Network. Sling TV is an online service, which does not require a satellite dish.
A year after the deal, York complained about a deal that Turner Broadcasting had signed with Apple TV to enable viewers watch NCAA basketball tournament games on a shared and split screen. York noted that AT&T had on several occasions tried to get secure the permission to start offering such innovative services. The efforts were however unsuccessful.
Lawyers representing the Department of Justice are seeking to show Judge Richard Leon that AT&T intends to use Time Warner’s must-have content as a weapon against its competitors including Google Inc.’s YouTube TV, Sling TV as well as other online rivals. On the other hand, lawyers representing AT&T have argued that in the event that AT&T takes over Time Warner, it will like to sell the content to as many people as possible.
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